Forget Rainy Day Projects – Here’s Why You Should Be Shooting in Bad Weather

by Alex Wrigley

The weather gets a lot of bad press, especially here in the UK, where our favourite pastime is complaining about whatever is happening in the sky at the current moment. It doesn’t have to be that way though, and there are plenty of reasons for you to don your waterproofs and head out with the camera even when conditions don’t necessarily look favourable.

In fact, as a landscape photographer stormy weather has become one of my favourite conditions to shoot in. Sure, it’s not the most comfortable weather to be out photographing in, but the magic is that you never know what you’re going to witness!

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Photography Conditions Will Never be ‘Perfect’

Photography In Bad And Rainy Weather
This could easily have been a write-off. Thick cloud was forecast and when I arrived visibility was very poor, but by making the most of the conditions I came away with an image that still hangs on my office wall. Previously, I wouldn’t have even left my bed this morning.
Photography In Bad And Rainy Weather

I fell into this trap early on in my photography career, and it’s one I’m very glad to be over. If you’re waiting for the ‘perfect’ conditions for nature photography you’ll be waiting a very long time!

I would check all the weather forecasts: cloud cover, wind speed, cloud height – The full works. If it wasn’t looking extremely promising I wouldn’t bother setting the alarm, but in doing so I missed out on tons of potential photographic gold. Conditions will never be perfect, but things in life rarely are perfect.

This mistake on my part led to me not getting out into nature anywhere near enough. Now I only check the weather forecast to determine where is best to go and shoot. If it’s raining I put on waterproofs, if it’s windy I add an extra layer, and in doing so I’ve experienced and seen some magical moments.

Of course, planning and preparation is still vital, but what the weather forecast shows shouldn’t determine whether you actually go out and shoot.

This doesn’t just apply to landscape and nature photography. Street photography can be phenomenal in rainy conditions for example.

Bad Weather Forces you to Think

Photography In Bad And Rainy Weather
This is from possibly the wettest shoot I’ve ever done. The cloud was at foot level and I had spent 3 hours getting completely drenched, but the lack of visibility forced me to think creatively and capture this intimate riverscape.
Photography In Bad And Rainy Weather

When we’re stuck in the trap of pastel sunrises and gorgeously soft mist lying across a glass-like lake we don’t tend to venture very far from the norm of photography. Our compositions become rather sterile and overall our photography just becomes predictable. Stormy weather forces you out of your comfort zone.

Maybe it’s too windy for using a tripod, or perhaps the rain keeps covering your filters in droplets. A pea soup-esque fog could be hanging over the scene or the clouds may have completely obscured any hint of a sunrise or sunset. Don’t head back to the car though – Experiment without a tripod and filters, try some compositions that complement that fog, and use that choppy water as a compositional aide.

It’s simple – We never grow as photographers unless we are pushed out of our comfort zone, and there’s nothing further out of your comfort zone than being enveloped in a thick fog on a rain battered mountainside. Just remember to always stay safe and don’t take any stupid risks!

Photographing in Bad Weather Sets you Apart

Photography In Bad And Rainy Weather
A freak hailstorm had just swept over me into this valley when a surprising patch of light managed to breach the storm. The conditions resulted in an image a bit different from the usual chocolate box sunset.
Photography In Bad And Rainy Weather

Sunset photographers are a dime a dozen these days, and sunrise photographers are only slighly rarer creatures. This is by no means a bad thing, but it does mean that the competition to get noticed (if that is your aim) is harder than ever, and the quest for originality is tougher every day.

If I head out to shoot a sunrise in Autumn I almost always come across another landscape photographer. It’s nice being able to talk photography with them, but if we’re striving for originality (which we all should be) then this is rarely the way to get it.

Do you know how often I see other photographers out in the rain and the wind? I can tell you it’s not many. In fact, there are about four photographers I know in my locale that like photographing in bad weather, and they are four of the best photographers I know.

Photographing in bad weather sets you apart from the masses, and that in turn gives you an easier road to originality than those who obsess over sunset colours.

Add Drama to Your Photography

Photography In Bad And Rainy Weather
One of the first storms of the winter season had just passed over so I thought it was worth heading to the beach to see if any light materialised. I framed this because of the contrasts between the dark sand and silver water, and the light breaking through completed it.
Photography In Bad And Rainy Weather

The most memorable photographs I see are the ones with a sense of drama to them, and nothing is more dramatic than a storm. The extra dimensions that those brooding clouds and squalls of rain add help to convey the scene to the viewer, and to be honest they’re a lot more relatable to the average viewer than a saturated sunrise.

Obviously these conditions present challenges to us, but that’s all part of the experience! Just make sure to clean your lens from water droplets often, try to keep the camera as dry as possible, and weigh your tripod down to stop it blowing over (yes, I’m speaking from experience).

Everybody Loves a Rainbow

Photography In Bad And Rainy Weather
The squalls of torrential rain that caused this rainbow did end up completely soaking me, but I couldn’t complain after witnessing a double rainbow.
Photography In Bad And Rainy Weather

You can’t get a rainbow without some rain, and everybody loves a rainbow! Honestly, I can’t think of many compositions that wouldn’t be improved by the presence of a rainbow.

Implementing a rainbow into your composition can be quite challenging though. The urge to include all of the rainbow is often overwhelming, but sometimes that’s not the best option. My one tip would be to use the rainbow to complement an already pleasing composition, rather than trying to improve a poor shot with it.

When the Light Breaks Through it’s Magic

Photography In Bad And Rainy Weather
A morning of getting battered by the rain on top of this Lake District fell was eventually worth it when a shaft of light broke through the storm clouds and swept across the fellside.
Photography In Bad And Rainy Weather

All of the previous points are very good reasons to grab the camera and head out of the door even when the weather looks unfavourable. However, they all pale in comparison to this final point. This is the real reason you should head out.

The light is never better than when a storm has just passed through, and when those first rays of light finally breach the thick clouds it can transform a scene from impressive to awe-inspiring. If you want to capture the mythical spotlighting I talked about in this article, you need to be making the most of the ‘bad’ weather. Yes, you will need to be lucky to capture this, but I’ve found that the more I shoot the luckier I get!

I can’t stress enough just how magical this is. When you’ve been standing for an hour in the rain with a composition framed and that image-making light breaks it gives a rush unlike any other in landscape photography. 

Photography In Bad And Rainy Weather
I had been taking shelter behind a summit cairn when this beam of light broke through and turned the estuary below into a glittering patch of magic.
Photography In Bad And Rainy Weather

I recently did a review of my favourite images of the year and guess what. All but one of them were shot in weather that most landscape photographers would stay in bed for. I may have arrived home soaking wet and wind burned, but that’s a small price to pay for the elation that moment of capture gives you!

Read More…

Natural Light and How to Use it

8 Quick Tips to Transform your Landscape Photography

6 Reasons to Start Using Prime Lenses

Best DSLR Cameras for Beginners

About Alex Wrigley

Alex is the owner and lead writer for Click and Learn Photography. An avid landscape, equine, and pet photographer living and working in the beautiful Lake District, UK, Alex has had his work featured in a number of high profile publications, including the Take a View Landscape Photographer of the Year, Outdoor Photographer of the Year, and Amateur Photographer Magazine.

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